Vendor Profile: Keith, Part Two

[Editor’s note: Read part one here.]

I have always had this instinct in me to move to a different place, to not just settle where I was. I love to travel. I love to go to places. I used to go to places on that Greyhound bus, but I was still suffering from my addiction, which was my alcohol and crack cocaine addiction. I lived on Skid Row in Los Angeles, California; I lived on Skid Row in Minneapolis, Minnesota; I lived on Skid Row in Las Vegas, Nevada—in New Orleans; in Atlanta, Georgia in Richmond, California; in Denver, Colorado. I lived on Skid Row in Seattle. But later I based myself in Tacoma, Washington—a nice little country town, everything was small, and it was good. Easy to get around, not a lot of death threats. And I have been in many detoxes. Every time, I am willing to work it, and every time I fell back it was because I got into a state and stage of homelessness. That is what drags you down.

I met this girl one day, she was from Iceland. Icelandic. She was a tough cookie. Now, she could run other men, but she couldn’t run me. We lived in California for four months, and it was good, but it was dreadful, if you know what I mean. We kicked together and stayed together for a while and then she was getting ready to come to Boston. I said I was ready to change. She helped me get here, and then she left me five days later.

I have been in every shelter in Boston—Anchor Inn, Pine Street, the Kingston House, Harborlight. I have stayed in shelters for two years and 47 days. And I have been clean for two years and 47 days, too!

Boston is the start of me growing up again. My goal is to get my own place—to be a man and stand on my own two feet, to get my stability back and reclaim my name. To take care of myself as a man, like I always wanted to.

Right now, I’m taking one class at Boston University—a toastmaster class. I’m in school and I’m doing pretty well. I’m not going to settle for mediocrity, I’m not going to settle for less. I’m going to demand my fullest potential to come forth as I go along and keep going forward. One of my goals in life is to become a professional motivational speaker, to help homeless men around the world get to where they need to be. Because homeless men, no matter where they are in life, they’re my family. And I know I have something to give to them and share with them that can help them break the cycle of brokenness in their life; that can give them hope. Sometimes it can take just one word to ignite the fire. Everyone ends up homeless for a different reason.

I started selling SPARE CHANGE NEWS last year. Selling the newspaper has given me an entrepreneurial spirit and confidence. It has helped me be able to buy my necessities: toothbrush, toothpaste and shoes. It is not an easy place to sell, but it is a job and guess who’s my boss! I mean you’re going to have people who’ll look down on you—the haters—but that’s their stuff. Because what people think of me is none of my business. I sell in Copley Square, in front of the New Balance shoe store. It is called New Balance, and it is just something about that spot right there. Balancing your life—mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially—in new ways is a new balance. That is why I’m here.

I want to put some roots down in Boston, but it is sometimes hard because of people’s ignorance of African Americans. Take Alcoholics Anonymous—it is not easy to go into a room where white folks think that, because you’re black, you’re not supposed to know anything. You’re just supposed to be dumb and illiterate. They still have that mindset of the past. I don’t want to talk about race too much, but no one is is interested in your dream if they can’t be part of it. It is ignorance and self-centeredness. Selfishness and self-centeredness is the root of everybody’s problems.

Everything in life is a process. Right now I’m in a process of recovery, in a process of staying sober, in a process of rebuilding myself from the inside out. I’m trying to get into a better lifestyle: recreating and rebuilding, renewing my mind, bringing out the great things I have within me. What’s really made me want to recreate myself is my need to get out my despair – the pain that I created and that happened for so many years. I am truly grateful today because I know I have come a long ways and when I look back over my life I believe there’s a higher being, a higher power, in the universe that has looked over my life and taken care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself.

It has been a life’s journey and, like Mike Tyson, you’ve got to take the punches. But failure isn’t final and we can’t live our lives afraid to fail. I believe that in every man and woman, every boy and girl, is a fundamental goodness. In order to make that goodness into greatness, you got to cultivate it and feed it. Because you’re only going to get out what you put in.







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